St James Church The Great

St James Church The Great

St James the Great Services

Morning Prayer is held on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 10.30am
Holy Communion is held on the 4th Sunday of each month at 10.30am
Services are followed by coffee for those who wish to stay and chat. All are welcome.
Vicar – Simon Kirby – 01993 702155
Associate vicar – Andy Reid –
Parish Office – (Sara and Judy) –
Churchwarden – vacant
Treasurer – vacant
Safeguarding Officer – Judy Marshall  – 01993 779613
PCC  – Liz Ashwell – 01993 703534 –


St James has a ring of 8 bells. Our practices take place on the 1st, 3rd (and 5th) Wednesday of each month from 7:30 to 9 p.m. All are welcome to join us or come and have a go.

For more information about the church and the bells, visit and scroll to South Leigh – St James.

or contact Tower Captain: Heather Horner Deputy Tower Captain: Richard Law Tower Correspondent: Evadne Vallance

Steeplekeeper: Martin Spurrier



To view the Transcript of Memorial Inscriptions please follow this link ….     Link to Memorial Inscriptions


St. James the Great

Our Vicar

Simon Kirby became the Vicar of St. James, South Leigh and St. Mary’s, Cogges in January 2013. Prior to that he had been a youth worker, school chaplain and church planter in North London. He is married to Sue and has two grown up sons. When not taking care of Parish business he enjoys walks in the Oxfordshire countryside, running, watching various sports and photography. One of the highlights of his ministry in South Leigh was hitting a six in the High Cogges v. South Leigh cricket match, which some would say proves the existence of miracles.



Here at St. James the Great, South Leigh, we take safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults very seriously. Safeguarding is a central concern for us all as we seek to deliver on the promise of a church that is a safe and welcoming space for people of all ages.

We have a safeguarding policy and refer to guidance on the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children’s Board or and the information from Oxford Diocese Safeguarding department.

  • What can you do?
  • If a child or adult is in immediate danger or requires immediate medical attention, call the emergency services on 999.
  • If there are concerns about their immediate welfare, don’t delay: call Children and Adult Social care on 0345 050 7666 or the Mash out-of-hours emergency Duty Team 0800 833408.
  • Also please immediately inform our Parish Safeguarding Officer
  • If you have any safeguarding concerns and would like to discuss them you can contact judy Marshall on 01993 779613 or email concerns to
  • If you are unsure or worried about how serious a situation is, contact one of the Diocesan safeguarding advisors, Stuart Nimmo on 01865 208290 or Sophie Harney on 01865 208295.
  • For safeguarding information and e-learning safeguarding courses you can also go to


Flower Rota

I would like some help with the church flower rota please. The Sunday morning worship is at 10.30am and so flowers may be put in the church any time to suit you on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. You do not need to have any ‘flower arranging’ skills. There are plenty of pots and vases in the cupboard in the vestry. Flowers from the garden or market with a bit of greenery will look lovely.

Please contact Liz Ashwell – or 01993 703534

St. James in the 21st century

It doesn’t seem long since I was writing to thank you all for your great response to our fundraising for the church roof repairs. However I think the years are just flying by. We have just had another Quinquennial inspection and have also started planning our next project to bring our church into the 21st century.  We had to put our plans on hold five years ago to raise the needed funds for repairs but have decided to try again to get water, and a toilet at the church and to develop the North Isle to provide seating and a reading area and to improve accessibility to the village millennium map. We also need to do work to improve drainage around the church and to upgrade the path to the church. This will be expensive to do but will be worth it.

A church near you

There is a very good web site where you can find out more about the church and its history here. On it, there are also links to other sites from which you can learn about the medieval wall paintings and many other things besides.

Also details of the war memorials  & churchyard graves with interactive photos’ of the wall paintings is available on

A Church near you

Friends of St. James

The Friends of St. James is an organisation aimed at developing the links between the parish church, the regular congregation and the wider village and encouraging our numerous visitors to be connected to the wider life and ministry of the church community.

In return for a small annual donation, Friends will receive an annual newsletter sent by email, be able to attend an annual meeting including an historical talk, a tour of the church and afternoon tea, and have an information page on the South Leigh website, including advance warning of activities in the church such as the Music Festival, Art Festival, concerts etc.

They will also be invited to take part in major fundraising activities, supporting the congregation in the repair, maintenance and restoration of the church and the churchyard funds raised will not be used to support the day-to-day ministry of the church, but will be targeted solely at the building and the churchyard.

If you would like to join the Friends (minimum annual subscription £24, life membership £240), please pick up an application form from the shelf near the church door or let Simon Kirby, Andy Reid or Liz Ashwell know and they will give you an application form.

Other payment methods are:

Cheques may be made payable to St James South Leigh PCC and sent to St James PCC, Elizabeth Ashwell, Lymbourne, South Leigh, Witney, OX29 6UP
by online BACS payment direct to our bank account, the details of which are:
Account name: St James South Leigh PCC
Sort code: 30-99-50
Account no.: 25302760
NB: If you pay online, please also email a remittance advice to (Please insert in the email with the amount of your donation and your name.)

Regardless of payment method, please consider gift aiding your donation as we can then claim the tax back too – you can download a Gift Aid.

Please send the completed form to: or post to Elizabeth Ashwell, Lymbourne, South Leigh, Witney, OX29 6UP

Give whilst you shop online

We have signed up to a fundraising scheme called ‘easyfundraising’. You can find out about how it works here. If you are planning to shop online please consider going via our own link and of course please also ask your family and friends to do so too. Fund raising St James the Great

Refuse bins

St. James has three refuse bins. Two for green compostable waste and one grey for landfill. Please put only green compostable waste in the green bins. Funeral wreathes often have plastic bases and Christmas wreaths often contain a metal frame both of which the refuse collectors refuse to take. Put those in the grey bin. Please put all paper, plastic, ribbon and cellophane in the grey bin.

A brief history

A brief history of the church can be seen on the ‘Sacred Destinations’ website Archive.

Click here to find out about St. Mary’s, Cogges.

Notice anything suspicious?

Thieves have been at work taking lead from churches in Oxfordshire. If you see anyone working on our church, we would be grateful if you could contact us to verify their presence is known about.

The clock goeth!

Our lovely old turret clock in the tower at St. James the Great is ticking again after resting silent for some two years.

The clock, reckoned to have come from Gloucestershire and made in the mid-18th century, was overhauled at the time of the millennium but, more recently, kept stopping just before it was due to strike the hour. Specialists were called in from Cumbria and the estimate to re-condition the clock and update its wonderfully ingenious, chain-driven, electric winding mechanism (Left) was to be more than £20,000.

So, noting that it always stopped just before it was due to strike, we thought that if we simply disabled the striking mechanism with one cable tie, the clock should run, but without striking. The specialists agreed to try. (Right) Hey presto! It runs perfectly and it cost £210 plus VAT. Long may it tick.
Please call me if you see anything peculiar, you never know with old clocks. After all, it’s a century and a half old! [So roughly the same age as the author, then! Ed.]
NB: when the clock winds itself and pulls the weight back up the tower, it makes a whirring noise that will appear to come from the ground level ringing room. Don’t worry about that… it will happen now and then as it automatically rewinds in order to keep the clock ticking.
Martin Spurrier, February 2021, 07799 368464

PS: Please don’t set your watches by the church clock as we can only expect a clock of its age to be accurate within a good few minute a month, depending on the weather, bats and how it feels. After all, it is over 250 years old and so the hour hand will have gone around more than 2.2 million times.

The biblical quotation on the clock face is from Matthew 24.42. Google has over 70 different translations of the original text, but here is a handy description of its meaning:

“Ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” Then let me always live as though my Lord were at the gate! Let me arrange my affairs on the assumption that the next to lift the latch will be the King. When I am out with my friend, walking and talking, let me assume that just round the corner I may meet the Lord. And so let me practise meeting Him! Said a mother to me one day concerning her long-absent boy: “I lay a place for him at every meal! His seat is always ready!”
John Henry Jowett – My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year

Alarm bells rang at St. James’s

The very thought of deathwatch beetle has struck fear in the hearts of property owners for eons. If you stand still, reputedly, you can hear them munching your beams away. The noise is actually caused by the beetles tapping their heads on the timber to attract a mate during courtship and was believed to presage a fatality, hence the beetle’s gloomy name.

The larvae bore into the wood, feeding for up to ten years before pupating, and later emerging as adult beetles only to start the process again.
So, when I noticed small, but growing, heaps of what looked like sawdust on ledges in the clock chamber below the bell chamber at our St. James the Great church in November, alarm bells rang (right).
Photos and samples were despatched and there was a suggestion that it might be caused by the dreaded deathwatch beetle. It made sense as they bore mostly in oak and elm, nearly always where the wood is over a hundred years old and damp, plus, they produce a sawdust-like ‘frass’.
The Vicar authorised the church’s architects to check it. So, with Caroline Edwards from heritage building consultants, Andrew Townsend Architects, we approached from the bell chamber above and used Caroline’s very flexible endoscope (right) to investigate through small holes in the floor boards presenting the images on her mobile phone.

We then lifted two of the chunky oak boards in the tight space beneath bell No 7 to find a wriggling mass of what appeared to be flies burrowing in the same-looking ‘sawdust’ that we’d seen in the clock chamber below (right).

Caroline called her colleague, Andrew Townsend, from the tower and he watched the images live via video-call at his office in Faringdon. He asked if the ‘sawdust’ was anywhere else. It was everywhere we could see in the gap between the floorboards and the ceiling below, and about six inches deep.

Guess what?

Our death watch beetle ‘frass’ was, in fact, perfectly normal sawdust that had probably been put there as sound insulation (also known as ‘pugging’ or ‘deafening’) in 1907 when the bells were re-hung and was now slipping through cracks that had opened up over time between the boards and the wall! And the squirming mass of what looked like flies, was exactly that, too. They were harmless, rather dopey attic flies, sometimes called cluster flies (not unlike bluebottles), that we had disturbed during their winter hibernation. These insects amass in places like attics and burrow in whatever they can find for warmth during the winter, before breeding in the spring. The Tower’s 1907 insulation was just perfect for them.
Crisis over! No deathwatch beetle, no borers or their frass. Just innocent, snoozing attic flies and good old Edwardian sawdust!
Martin Spurrier (February 2021)

Churchyard resurrection update


The churchyard has seen its final works for this season; many nettles and bramble roots removed, some areas rotovated, then raked all over. Wildflower seed has been scattered and trampled in and hedging planted in the gap on the western boundary. Thanks to some 20 villagers (to be named individually in a later report), but special mention to Martin Spurrier and Dick Pears for extra duties. Now it is up to nature to soften the impact.
Heather Horner 29.03.2021

Churchyard resurrection


Before elm removal (Photo © Heather Horner)
South Leigh’s ancient churchyard is getting a makeover. Although never completely neglected, in course of time the brambles and nettles and ivy have overtaken parts of the perimeter, and nature has taken its toll on the ancient elms that once flanked the western boundary. A project is underway to refresh the outer parts of the churchyard and reinvigorate and extend the wildlife biodiversity. This will be done in stages, so that the existing populations of flowers and animals are not completely disrupted and have the chance to adjust.

A start was made in the summer, with the removal of some inappropriate self-set sycamores and brambles growing among the tombstones. Then at the start of December, a healthily large band of village residents joined a working party to tackle the dead elms which had persisted in inconveniently falling into the roadway whenever strong winds blew. Much of the rotting wood has been piled into wildlife refuges for bugs and fungi and small animals. Large areas of brambles and snowberry have been cleared into an enormous pile, which will either be allowed to rot down gently, or maybe some judicious burning if the weather ever improves. Or if you have a domestic fire, there should be some rescuable firewood, come and help yourself.



After elm removal (Photo © Heather Horner)
The northern and western boundaries were planted with Italian limes in 1832, so these trees are nearly 200 years old. Italian lime was very popular and fashionable in the Victorian era, but it has a strong tendency to send up shoots and suckers from the base, using energy at the expense of the main trunk.

A new view to the west (© Martin Spurrier)
No doubt the Victorians had extra labour available to trim these suckers off every year, but ours have not seen such attention for many seasons. Added to that, ivy has been climbing some of the limes, making them top-heavy and at risk in a high wind.

New light on the graveyard (© Heather Horner)

Ivy is a very useful plant in the wider environment, it flowers late in the season, providing nectar and pollen for overwintering insects; my bees love it. But the combination of extra growth at the base and ivy up the trunks is putting the limes in danger, so a big part of the churchyard renovation is aimed at reducing this extra vegetation. Now the undergrowth has been reduced, it is delightful to see how many snowdrops and daffodils are emerging from the bare earth. There are plans to replant much of the exposed soil under the trees with native shade-loving flowers – a start has been made with Solomon’s Seal and stinking iris and hellebore.


Thanks to David Pimm for loan of the digger

The less shaded parts need some more help, please, to reduce the bramble roots and nettles, then my own mix of local wildflowers should have a good chance to establish, with some cornfield annuals to hopefully give a good show this year. The roadside hedge is now a bit gappy, though it gives tantalising glimpses of the historic church within; the gaps should be replanted with native hedgerow shrubs before spring. This is the first chapter in what we hope you will see as a community project, increasing access to our 1000 year old churchyard as well as increasing biodiversity. For instance, we are confident that we already have slowworms on site; their favourite refuge and sunning spot is a sheet of corrugated iron, which you may see tucked into a sunny corner. For the future, we need help with planting, maintenance, adding microhabitats (bird-boxes, anyone?), monitoring wildlife, all suggestions and offers welcome. Come and talk!

Heather Horner, Windrush Cottage, Station Road   01993 357389   Heather Horner

Churchyard work party

Let There be More Light at St. James’

While our church of St. James the Great still remained sadly silent in early August, after a discussion with the Vicar and a tree surgeon, plus a walk around the graveyard to assess the work, there was a flurry of activity there during the heatwave on the 10th and 12th.

This was the start of a number of jobs planned for the coming months, including the removal of dead trees that keep falling from perimeter hedge, and cutting back to let in light and to show off the beautiful mature specimens that form the backdrop to the church.

After further discussion with the Vicar, we hope that we will be able to create a number of subtle ‘windows’ through the currently over-grown hedge to allow glimpses of the church in its tranquil setting.

’Barrow Boy takes the heat’: Team Leader, Dick Pears, tidies up in 34 degrees.

There were concerns, initially, about potential delays because we thought that we might have to wait for a ‘Faculty’, which is a special Church licence, in order to start work. However, trees etc. are within the control of the Vicar and he, like us, was conscious of the limited resources available and the priority of pastoral needs, and so we were all in agreement to go ahead.

’Waste not want not’: Heather trims pruned branches to make garden poles and supports for laden sloe trees in Bond’s Lane.
Dick said, “This is another constructive South Leigh lockdown initiative and one that will beautify even further our most treasured asset. Many thanks to Heather for her advice on what to do with the trees, and to the Vicar for supporting the project and with whom we shall continue to consult”.

Dick added, “Many hands make light work and we only had six. If you would like to help in any way as we move into the next phase, please let me know. You’d be most welcome.

‘Cool scene’: The heatwave work party take to the shade: The author, Dick Pears and Heather Horner.